There was this photo taken at the most recent council meeting in Pollensa. The mayor, Tomeu Cifre, was reading out the declaration for the swearing-in of a new councillor, Pere Josep Coll of the Alternativa per Pollença.
Pere and his party don’t believe in politics being a profession. Being a councillor is purely an act of service for the common good. With careerism not an issue, the Alternativa rotate their councillors. Unlike, say Podemos, with their nouveau careerism, the Alternativa genuinely walk the talk. None of them will ever aspire to anything beyond being a temporary occupant of a seat at a council meeting; they don’t have any particular ambition to officially join a coalition and therefore secure reasonably well-paid executive councillor posts
Alternative they are in many regards, and Pere strikes a ponytailed figure of councillor alternativism. Standing before the mayor, his arms were folded (a defiant or a defensive gesture?), while to the right of the mayor was the first deputy mayor, Andrés Nevado. It was the look on the face of Andrés that caught my eye. He was staring at Pere with an expression which suggested that he was asking himself: “Who on Earth have the Alternativa sent this time?”
The Alternativa don’t much care for Andrés. This is at least partly due to the fact that his party, the Unió Mollera Pollencina, had supported the left Junts Avançam between 2015 and 2019 before jumping ship and supporting the right Tots per Pollença. The UMP thus secured councillor positions in two successive administrations. When Andrés was the beneficiary of a mayoral decision to increase executive councillors’ salaries by 32%, this was too much for the Alternativa, and they started hashtagging #BravoNevado.
Differences of political opinion exist, but one has the impression that the differences are also personal, and while personality clashes are hardly unknown at any political stratum, they can appear to be accentuated at the local level.
Majorca’s municipalities, with the exception of Palma, are small. Of the larger ones, only Calvia hovers around the 50,000 mark. The overwhelming majority have populations below 20,000; 34 out of the 53 are below 10,000, with six under 1,000. In these small municipalities - one hesitates to refer to them as towns in most instances - there are all the intrigues of small municipalities, encouraged by what is often a multiplicity of political groupings.
Councillors will, to a man or woman, maintain that they are only interested in the common good, but this common good does have a habit of creating local goings-on. There has recently been the case of Buger (just over 1,000 people), where the Més mayor got in thanks to the Partido Popular, only to then exit also because of the PP. I know that behind the scenes there were personal issues that led - ultimately unsuccessfully - to keeping the PSOE candidate away from the mayoral office.
In Maria de la Salut, with something over 2,000 people, a vote of no confidence in the mayor and the ruling administration has been in the offing for the past month or so. The under-threat mayor, Biel Mas, reckons this is all down to personal grudges and interests. Felanitx, with around 18,000 people, is massive compared to most municipalities, yet a similar dynamic to that of Maria is said to have played a part in the ructions there - a personal dynamic.
On Monday, with all due solemnity, the new administration in Felanitx spoke to the IB3 broadcaster, this administration comprising the PP, El Pi and a one-time PSOE councillor who - to use a not uncommon word in local politics - has been accused of being a “turncoat”. The alleged turncoat in question, Joan Aznar, left PSOE last month but maintained his position as a councillor and the areas for which he was responsible. There was a crisis in the pact and so a new one was needed.
Aznar has made clear that there was a personal issue, and it centred on Xisco Duarte of PSOE. Under the agreement for governing Felanitx, Duarte was scheduled to have become mayor next June. He now won’t be mayor because he’s not part of the ruling administration. While Aznar was rejecting the turncoat accusation, stressing that his only interest is the common good of the citizens of Felanitx, there was another solemn presentation, this one featuring the secretary of PSOE in Majorca and Xisco Duarte. The new pact is “betraying” the citizens.
There is supposedly rather more to all this in that Duarte is a favourite of President Armengol, while Aznar is championed by Mercedes Garrido. From Felanitx, Garrido has seemingly not forgiven Armengol for not allowing her to stand as president of the Council of Majorca last year.
So there you are, another tale of town hall intrigue and of turncoats and betrayal, but all - it must be stressed - for the common good.